Change Can Be Delight-ful: Digital Strategy at Harvard University

When Perry Hewitt joined Harvard University as its Chief Digital Officer in 2009, she was handed a brand with a lot of value and recognition, not to mention centuries of history. Then came the challenge. She was tasked with making Harvard’s brand “warm, friendly and accessible” in the digital space—knowing at the same time that because of Harvard’s academic exclusivity, the brand  “would need to be both accessible and inaccessible.”

Talk about walking a fine line.

To leverage Harvard’s existing brand clout, Perry and the team focused on two pivotal pillars of change for the university and its news:

  1. Re-imagining the news platform: From static destination to active syndication.
    Perry and her team helped lead the thinking of Harvard’s leaders and stakeholders from being completely in control of all its messaging, to a point where it relinquished some control so as to have more influence on digital conversations.
  2. Getting social: Aggregated, coordinated, shareable (and true) content.
    Another challenge was to use social media to pull together common themes and issues, and synthesize active social streams that had been happening randomly, in silos, before Perry’s arrival at Harvard in 2009.  She focused on bringing together types of content users and readers might want to share (like beautiful campus photographs) as well as content consumers might not know they’d find relatable and relevant (like hand-written notes, discovered in Harvard’s archives, by T.S. Eliot proposing a magazine he wanted to publish).

 “I think there’s a real opportunity now for us, as creators,” she says, “whether you’re creating content strategy for websites, or you’re creating information architecture, or you’re creating multimedia. There’s a huge opportunity for collaboration and looking to collaborate through design—and having that be the way you effect change in the world.

Watch Perry’s presentation above to hear more about how she drove digital change in a 378-year-old institution.

Change Can Be Delight-ful: Digital Strategy at Harvard from Delight Conference

About Perry 

Perry Hewitt has deep experience in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors. Her background includes both traditional business and marketing, as well digital and social innovation and management. As Chief Digital Officer at Harvard University, Perry is charged with Harvard’s efforts to develop a digital strategy for communications and engagement tailored to audiences including the general public, media, and 375,000 alumni worldwide – as well as exploring ways that organizations transform through and for their digital constituencies. She also works to establish best practices for new capabilities to meet demand created by rapid digital, mobile, and social changes.

Perry holds an A.B. from Harvard University in Russian and Soviet Studies. She has lived and worked in Switzerland, Russia, the United Kingdom and Australia. She lives with her family in the greater Boston area. Find her online at or @perryhewitt.